Under the same act all deserters failing to report under the President's proclamation authorized thereby were disfranchised. No steps have yet been taken to carry out this provision.
The following officers have been in charge of this branch:
Major Chauncey McKeever, assistant adjutant-general, from April 8, 1863, to October 1, 1863.
Captain W. R. Pease, Seventh Infantry,from October 1, 1863, to November 23, 1863.
Captain Henry Stone, assistant adjutant-general of volunteers, from November 23, 1863, to February 9, 1864.
Captain W. R. Pease, Seventh Infantry, February 9, 1864, to May 2, 1864.
Captain George E. Scott, Veteran Reserve Corps, from May 2, 1864.
On the 5th of December I relieved the last named, since which date I have been in charge.
It has not been found advisable since May, 1863, materially to change the manner of informing provost-marshals of the descriptions and whereabouts of deserters. The commanding officer of a regiment reports to this office the deserters a certain month on a blank, which gives descriptive list, residence, supposed whereabouts, and any other facts which may tend to identify them. This report is received, and a copy of the description of every deserter thereon is forwarded to the provost-marshal where he is probably to be found, and the report filed away. When there are several placed which he would probably frequent, descriptive lists are sent to the several provost- marshals. This work (as desertions have averaged 5,000 or 6,000 a month) is necessarily, and it has been sometimes necessary to employ from twenty to thirty clerks at copying. It has also been inculcated upon provost-marshals and acting assistant provost- marshal-general diligently to inter change descriptive lists of deserters when they are known or supposed to be in another district of State. Every possible care has been take to keep provost-marshal advised of the whereabouts of deserters; and it is believed that the arrests, which are nearly two-thirds of the desertions, show that the work has been well done.
The clerks have mostly been detailed men, generally from the Veteran Reserve Corps.
Experience has proved that the best method of arresting deserters is to offer $30 reward, to include all incidental expenses. Fewer deserters are arrested when the reward is smaller, and the necessary expenses incident to their arrest, which are paid in addition to the smaller reward, generally swell the whole amount to more than $30, not to mention the additional labor necessitated in examining vouchers, &c.
In the payment of rewards provost-marshal were instructed to examine each case to ascertain whether the deserter was culpable, or the victim of misapprehension of duty. Frequent cases have occurred of soldiers being arrested by having overstayed their sick-leaves through ignorance of what steps to take to protect themselves, in most of which no rewards were paid. The prompt payment for arrests, more than any other circumstances, tends to make them frequent; and in some districts, where few arrests have been made, it has been owing to the time taken to get the reward paid (often from three to six months), the nearest disbursing quartermaster being hundreds of miles distant from the provost- marshal's headquarters.